More and more people are consuming news ? or perhaps news headlines ? via their social platforms rather than directly perusing a website, magazine or newspaper. One thing I’ve been thinking a lot about is how consuming news based off social channels that you select frames your perception of news events. 

My hunch has been that the outrage and praise about articles and topics that bubble to the top of social media feeds, and the speed at which they do so, might often distort how we perceive the news and what types of stories we read. 

In a sense, by the time you read (or don’t read) a story about, oh, say the latest Trump Tweet, you’ll have already been influenced or formed an opinion based on the noise and reaction percolating in your feeds ? many of which contain thoughts that you actively curated to contain both reaffirming thoughts similar to your own and your own deeply held cognitive biases. So what if you could avoid that noise, and instead read the news in a vacuum, where your perception could not be affected or altered before you read it? 

A reporter at FiveThirtyEight decided to quit social media for three months, while still consuming news through traditional methods, as a result of realizing this: “My reading was no longer deliberate but curated by external forces that may or may not have aligned with my interests. I’d ceded control of my most valuable currency: my attention.” 

Through the experiment on herself, she learned that without the loudest noise from both sides telling her how to think and react, it was easier to form her own opinions. But here was her big takeaway from the experience: 

“More than anything else, my break from social media reinforced my belief in the importance of traditional journalism, where (ideally) facts are verified and follow-up questions are asked before a story is published. Without social media focusing me on the news of the instant, I consumed news in a slower, less frantic fashion. I read second-day stories and deep dives that put news in context, and I came away feeling better informed.” 

I don’t think you need to go into a foxhole and pretend the rest of the world isn’t reacting to the news, as of course this can be useful. But this article was a reminder to me of the importance of trying to digest and interpret the news on my own, and pausing to ask more questions when the big stories go careening out of control to the top of BuzzFeed and national TV news. 

She had more insights from her experience, so I’d encourage you to read the full piece to see what she learned, and what she missed most. Hint: She missed knowing about the lives of her friends and family.